________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 6 . . . . November 10, 2006


What Elephant? 

Geneviève Côté.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2006.
32 pp., cloth, $18.95.
ISBN 1-55337-875-X. 

Subject Headings:
Elephant-Juvenile fiction.
Community-Juvenile fiction.
Grades 1-7 / Ages 6-12.

Review by Gregory Bryan. 

**** /4 


A small crowd gathered around George. 

“Elephants don’t break into houses,” someone giggled. 

“But this one did—it REALLY did!” When I went home there was an elephant sitting on my couch! It was watching TV and eating my chocolate chip cookies!” insisted George.  

Poor George is not only going crazy—seeing an elephant in his house—but that same, supposedly non-existent elephant is destroying his house too. In reality, however, there really is an elephant that has moved into George’s house. Unfortunately, when he tells his friends and neighbours, they all think George must be seeing things. After all, elephants don’t live in houses.  

internal art

     George soon becomes so tired of the ridicule to which he is subjected that he starts to pretend that he no longer can see the elephant. As friends drop by to visit, fearing ridicule, they, too, pretend they cannot see the elephant. Soon there are friends and neighbours all around the elephant—each pretending they don’t see it. When the elephant takes to sunbathing in the garden, they even ignore the “overpowering scent of coconut oil.” 

     Written and illustrated by the talented Genèvieve Côté, What Elephant? is a humorous tale sure to appeal to readers young and old. At the surface level, the colourful, whimsical illustrations and the humour of the story will appeal to younger readers, while the deeper messages about peer pressure, taking a stand and speaking up for the truth, and tackling problems head-on will be of particular relevance to older children. Côté works in mixed media and infuses her work with abundant colour. The expressions on her characters’ faces convey a wealth of additional information—joy, shock, fear, surprise, anger, embarrassment. It is fun to flick through the pages of this book just to look at the characters’ faces. 

     Genèvieve Côté is a sublime talent, as was recognized by the inclusion of her artwork in the esteemed Kids Can Press “Visions in Poetry” series. She has twice been nominated for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Illustration. What Elephant? is the first book she has both written and illustrated and is a guaranteed winner. 

Highly Recommended. 

Gregory Bryan teaches language and literacy courses in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba. 

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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